“November 1–7. Doctrine and Covenants 125–128: ‘A Voice of Gladness for the Living and the Dead,’” Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: Doctrine and Covenants 2021 (2020)
“November 1–7. Doctrine and Covenants 125–128,” Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: 2021
Record Your Impressions
In August 1840, a grieving Jane Neyman listened to the Prophet Joseph speak at the funeral of his friend Seymour Brunson. Jane’s own teenage son Cyrus had also recently passed away. Adding to her grief was the fact that Cyrus had never been baptized, and Jane worried what this would mean for his eternal soul. Joseph knew how she felt; he had wondered the same thing about his beloved brother Alvin, who also died before being baptized. So the Prophet decided to share with Jane, and everyone else at the funeral, what the Lord had revealed to him about those who had died without receiving the ordinances of the gospel—and what we can do to help them.
The doctrine of baptism for the dead thrilled the Saints; their thoughts turned immediately to deceased parents, grandparents, and other family members. Now there was hope for them! Joseph shared their joy, and he used joyful, enthusiastic language to express what the Lord taught him about the salvation of the dead: “Let the mountains shout for joy, and all ye valleys cry aloud; and all ye seas and dry lands tell the wonders of your Eternal King!” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:23).
After returning home from a mission to England, one of many missions he served, Brigham Young received another important calling from the Lord—to “take especial care of [his] family” (verse 3), who had suffered in his absence. As you ponder how this and other counsel in section 126 applies to you, consider these words from Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson, former Young Women General President:
“Remember that some of the greatest needs may be those right in front of you. Begin your service in your own homes and within your own families. These are the relationships that can be eternal. Even if—and maybe especially if—your family situation is less than perfect, you can find ways to serve, lift, and strengthen. Begin where you are, love them as they are, and prepare for the family you want to have in the future” (“The Needs before Us,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2017, 27).
See also “Take Special Care of Your Family,” Revelations in Context, 242–49.
False accusations and the threat of arrest had again forced Joseph Smith into hiding in August 1842. And yet the words he wrote to the Saints during this time (now Doctrine and Covenants 127) are full of optimism and joy. What do verses 2–4 teach you about God? about how you can face personal trials?
Consider recording how the Lord is sustaining you in the “deep water” of your life.
As you read Doctrine and Covenants 127:5–8; 128:1–8, look for the reasons why the Lord gave Joseph Smith such specific instructions about recording baptisms for the dead. What does this teach you about the Lord and His work?
It’s clear from what God revealed through Joseph Smith why our ancestors who weren’t baptized in this life need our help for their salvation. But why do you think our ancestors’ salvation is “necessary and essential to our salvation”? (see Doctrine and Covenants 128:15–18; italics added).
Verse 5 teaches that the ordinance of baptisms for the dead was “prepared before the foundation of the world.” What does this truth teach you about God and His plan? What does President Henry B. Eyring’s message “Gathering the Family of God” add to your understanding? (Ensign or Liahona, May 2017, 19–22).
Joseph Smith used phrases like “binding power,” “welding link,” and “perfect union” when teaching about priesthood ordinances and baptism for the dead. Look for these and similar phrases as you read Doctrine and Covenants 128:5–25. What are some of the things that, through Jesus Christ, can be bound together because of priesthood ordinances for the dead? Why is “bold” a good word to describe the doctrine of salvation for the dead? (see verses 9–11).
What impresses you about Joseph Smith’s words in verses 19–25? How do these verses affect the way you feel about temple service for your ancestors? about Jesus Christ? What do you feel inspired to do? (see FamilySearch.org/discovery for ideas).
See also 1 Corinthians 15:29; Dale G. Renlund, “Family History and Temple Work: Sealing and Healing,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2018, 46–49; “A Sacrifice of Time” and “Their Hearts Are Bound to You,” videos, ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
Doctrine and Covenants 126.
Reading this counsel to Brigham Young might inspire your family to talk about how you might spend more time taking “especial care of” (verse 3) each other.
Doctrine and Covenants 128:15–18.
What are some saving and perfecting blessings of family history work? You may find some ideas in the video “The Promised Blessings of Family History” (ChurchofJesusChrist.org) or in a song about family history, such as “Family History—I Am Doing It” (Children’s Songbook, 94).
Doctrine and Covenants 128:18.
Consider making a paper chain with family members’ and ancestors’ names on each link to show how family history and temple work creates a “welding link” connecting us with our ancestors. Maybe you could do some research on FamilySearch.org to find additional family members and see how long your chain grows.
Doctrine and Covenants 128:19–23.
Perhaps family members could search these verses for words that show Joseph Smith’s excitement about the gospel of Jesus Christ and the salvation of the dead. Family members could share experiences that have made them excited about this work too—or you could seek such experiences together on FamilySearch.org/discovery.
For more ideas for teaching children, see this week’s outline in Come, Follow Me—For Primary.
Suggested song: “Family History—I Am Doing It,” Children’s Songbook, 94.
Phebe Woodruff was living near Nauvoo when Joseph Smith began teaching about baptism for the dead. She wrote about it to her husband, Wilford, who was serving a mission in England:
“Brother Joseph … has learned by revelation that those in this church may be baptized for any of their relatives who are dead and had not a privilege of hearing this gospel, even for their children, parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, uncles, and aunts. … As soon as they are baptized for their friends they are released from prison and they can claim them in the resurrection and bring them into the celestial kingdom—this doctrine is cordially received by the church and they are going forward in multitudes, some are going to be baptized as many as 16 times … in one day.”1
Wilford Woodruff later said of this principle: “The moment I heard of it my soul leaped with joy. … I went forward and was baptised for all my dead relatives I could think of. … I felt to say hallelujah when the revelation came forth revealing to us baptism for the dead. I felt that we had a right to rejoice in the blessings of Heaven.”2
Like Sister Woodruff, Vilate Kimball heard about baptism for the dead while her husband, Heber, was away preaching the gospel. She wrote to him:
“President Smith has opened a new and glorious subject … which has caused quite a revival in the church. That is, being baptised for the dead. Paul speaks of it, in first Corinthians 15th chapter 29th verse. Joseph has received a more full explanation of it by Revelation. … It is the privilege of this church to be baptised for all their kinsfolks that have died before this Gospel came forth; even back to their great-Grandfather and Mother. … By so doing, we act as agents for them; and give them the privilege of coming forth in the first resurrection. He says they will have the Gospel preached to them … but there is no such thing as spirits being baptised. … Since this order has been preached here, the waters have been continually troubled. During conference there were sometimes from eight to ten Elders in the river at a time baptising. … I want to be baptised for my Mother. I calculated to wait until you come home, but the last time Joseph spoke upon the subject, he advised every one to be up and a doing, and liberate their friends from bondage as quick as possible. So I think I shall go forward this week, as there is a number of the neighbors going forward. Some have already been baptised a number of times over. … Thus you see there is a chance for all. Is not this a glorious doctrine?”3
Once the baptismal font was completed in the Nauvoo Temple, baptisms for the dead were performed there instead of in the river. Phebe Chase, a resident of Nauvoo, wrote to her mother about the temple, describing the baptismal font as the place where “we can be baptised for our dead and become saviors on Mount Zion.” She went on to explain that in this font, “I have been baptised for my dear father and all the rest of my dead friends. … Now I want to know what your father’s and Mother’s names are so that I can release them, for I desire to relieve the Dead. … The Lord has spoken again and restored the ancient order.”4
In writing to her friends and family about baptism for the dead, Sally Randall recalled the passing of her son George:
“Oh what a trying time that was to me and it seems yet that I can not be reconciled to have it so, but … his father has been baptised for him and what a glorious thing it is that we believe and receive the fulness of the gospel as it is preached now and can be baptized for all of our dead friends and save them as far back as we can get any knowledge of them.
“I want you should write me the given names of all of our connections that are dead as far back as grandfathers and grandmothers at any rate. I intend to do what I can to save my friends and I should be very glad if some of you would come and help me for it is a great work for one to do alone. … I expect you will think this is a strange doctrine but you will find it to be true.”5